08/20/2014 – The Postal Service engaged in delaying tactics that constituted an unlawful refusal to provide the APWU with information about the agency’s deal with Staples, an NLRB judge wrote in an Aug. 13 decision.
The USPS “did not want to provide the requested materials and was throwing straw arguments and roadblocks in the way,” Administrative Law Judge Eric M. Fine said.
The Staples deal established knock-off post offices in more than 80 of the office-supply stores in a trial program that the Postal Service and the retailer hoped to expand to all of the company’s 1,500 U.S. stores. The union has launched a boycott of Staples, which has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, AFSCME, SEIU, and many other major labor organizations.
Shortly after the program got underway in October 2013, the APWU requested detailed information about the terms of the arrangement as well as correspondence between the USPS and Staples. The Postal Service claimed the union had failed to establish the relevance of the information it sought and said the APWU’s request was “overly broad” and “burdensome.” Management also asserted that much of the information was confidential.
Just prior to the April 1 NLRB hearing, the Postal Service gave the APWU a heavily redacted copy of the agreement that obscured most of the details of its contract with Staples. Many of the deal’s 58 pages were completely blacked out.
In the decision, NLRB Judge Fine rejected each of the Postal Service’s claims and ordered the Postal Service to provide the APWU with most of the requested information, including thousands of emails between the USPS and Staples. He credited the testimony of the APWU witnesses, Clerk Craft Director Clint Burelson, Manager of Negotiations Support Phil Tabbita, while discounting the testimony of the Postal Service’s witnesses.
What Are They Hiding?
APWU President Mark Dimondstein said, “This decision demonstrates the desperate measures the USPS is willing to take to keep the details of its privatization deal a secret.
“The U.S. Postal Service is a national treasure that belongs to the people of the country,” he said. “Postmaster General Donahoe has no right to turn over its operations to a private company that is motivated by the bottom line – not service to the people.
“The secrecy prompts the question: What are they hiding?”
The APWU objects to the Staples deal because it privatizes the retail operations of the public Postal Service; transfers living-wage, union jobs to high-turnover, low-wage jobs, and degrades service to the public.
USPS Knew Exactly
In his decision, Judge Fine wrote, “I find that the Union has established the relevancy of the requested disputed information.” The program spans several states in major population centers, where “Staples employees perform a broad array of bargaining unit work creating alternative retail outlets.” He also pointed out that “a large number of the 80 to 84 Staples stores used in the pilot program were located less than a mile from the nearest post office.”
Fine rejected the Postal Service’s claims that the union’s request for information was overly broad and burdensome. “I find the Union’s request to be quite specific, and in need of no further explanation,” he wrote. “In fact, I have concluded that Respondent [USPS] knew exactly what the Union wanted but was merely opposed to providing the Union with the information.”
Fine also rebuffed management’s assertion that it could withhold much of the information the USPS said was confidential or proprietary. The Postal Service has until Sept. 10 to appeal the decision to the full NLRB.
An investor writing for Seeking Alpha thinks Stalpes’ days are numbered, and the abrupt cancellation of its deal with the USPS proves it:
Nothing shows Staples’ vulnerability more than its reliance upon school supplies. The Wall Street Journal reported that Staples has killed a program to open post offices in its stores. The program was killed because the American Postal Workers Union was able to get two teachers’ unions to join it in a boycott of Staples. The postal workers were mad because Staples employees are nonunion.
Staples’ management was afraid that teachers would start telling parents not to shop for school supplies at its stores. With its recent revenue losses, Staples needs all the customers it can get.
Today’s customers demand more convenience, and the Postal Service is ready to offer it, with innovative programs for access to postal products and services.
“Customers want one-stop shopping,” PMG Pat Donahoe says in his latest video message to employees. “That’s why major retailers are adding services in their retail stores, like dry cleaning, pharmacies, banking and medical services. If the Postal Service is not at the table, our competitors will be.”
Donahoe explains that the pilot program started with Staples last October is an example of the innovation needed. “Improving access for our customers is the reason we launched the pilot program,” he says. “The Staples relationship has been good for our business. It has put volume in the mailstream, and increasing volume helps to preserve and support Postal Service jobs.”
The Staples pilot program will end starting Aug. 1. Participating Staples stores will transition to the Postal Service’s Approved Shipper Program, which is expected to be complete by Aug. 29.
“The Approved Shipper Program will give customers access beyond normal Post Office hours, in areas where we don’t have regular Post Offices,” Donahoe said, noting that 27 percent of the postal business in the Staples pilot occurred outside normal business hours. “With more outlets for our products and services, the Postal Service can grow business.”
The Approved Shipper Program has been in place since 2005 and almost 6,200 businesses participate nationwide.
The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets report that Staples and the US Postal Service have agreed to end the pilot program that sought to outsource post office retail services to counters inside Staples stores. Staples will instead join the USPS “approved shipper” program:
Staples Inc. and the U.S. Postal Service said Monday they will end a pilot program to set up mini post offices in the company’s retail outlets, days after one of the nation’s biggest teachers unions called for a boycott of the chain amid growing criticism from labor.
Darleen Reid, a postal agency spokeswoman, declined to say whether union opposition had played a role in deciding to end the pilot program, which will end by Aug. 1. “We respect their right to their opinion,” Ms. Reid said. “This decision is all about expanding service to our customers.”
The announcement from Staples appeared to mark a retreat from a plan to expand the program into the chain’s nearly 1,500 outlets if the pilot was successful.
But the postal workers union said it wasn’t satisfied and called the announcement a ruse. “This attempt at trickery shows that the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ movement is having an effect. We intend to keep up the pressure until Staples gets out of the mail business,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the postal workers union, which has 200,000 members representing about half of the nation’s postal workers.
USPS spokesperson Darleen Reid may have inadvertently confirmed Dimondstein’s claim when she told the Boston Globe
We look forward to continuing the partnership whether it’s called Retail Partner Expansion or approved shipper. We just want our customers to know they can continue to get postal services at these 82 locations.
BOSTON – AFT Massachusetts, which represents teachers, school workers, public librarians and college faculty across Massachusetts, announced today that it was joining a growing boycott of the office supply and bulk goods retailer Staples. The announcement by Massachusetts teachers and school workers is significant because the Bay State is one of four test markets for a pilot program that moves postal services from local Post Offices to Staples stores. Additionally, Staples corporate headquarters is located in Framingham, Massachusetts. Continue reading →
In a July 2 letter to Staples Inc. CEO Ronald L. Sargeant, AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders and Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes said “we are asking our members, friends, family members and colleagues to take their business elsewhere.”
While noting that AFSCME has done substantial business with Staples, nationally and locally, President Saunders and Secretary-Treasurer Reyes wrote that Americans “have a right to Post Offices staffed by highly-trained, uniformed postal employees – employees who have taken an oath to safeguard the privacy and security of their mail. We also object, in principle, to short-sighted business arrangements that replace good, living-wage jobs with high-turnover, low-wage jobs, as the USPS-Staples deal does.”
The Postal Service announced last October that it would open postal counters with limited services at 82 Staples locations nationwide.
The pilot program could potentially expand to all of the Massachusetts-based chain’s 1,500 locations nationwide starting this September.
AFSCME’s letter to Staples’ CEO notes that, since the deal was announced, the USPS has reduced service hours in more than two dozen San Francisco-area Post Offices. All of them are located near a Staples store with a postal counter. “It is apparent that more cuts in postal services are planned, along with the eventual closing of U.S. Post Offices,” the letter states.
“Only the U.S. Postal Service can accomplish the mission it has carried out with distinction for more than two centuries: Providing universal mail service to all Americans, in every corner of the country,” wrote President Saunders and Secretary-Treasurer Reyes.
June 30, 2014 – The ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ movement got a big boost this month when the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) voted to endorse the boycott. The union represents building service, healthcare and government employees.
In a letter to Staples CEO Ronald L. Sargent and Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry wrote, “On behalf of the Service Employees International’s 2 million members, I am writing to express SEIU’s strong opposition to the United States Postal Service’s decision to operate postal counters in Staples stores, and to inform you that SEIU is boycotting all Staples stores. Continue reading →
June 23, 2014 – The Postal Service’s propaganda machine has been working overtime in recent months, with workers forced to watch videos featuring Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe spewing falsehoods about “the state of the business” and the deal with Staples.
APWU President Mark Dimondstein takes on the PMG’s claims in a new video that every postal worker should see.
But while management can require employees to view his message while they’re on the clock, the union can’t. So make sure your co-workers hear the truth! Please show the video in swing rooms, cafeterias, at union events, and wherever postal employees get together.
“Your efforts to replace skilled U.S. Postal Service employees with untrained workers will jeopardize mail service, while putting the jobs of thousands of Postal Service employees at risk,” wrote Dennis Van Roekel, the organization’s president.
“NEA does not support – and never will – the outsourcing of essential public services to untrained workers in private companies with lower standards. If allowed to continue, these efforts would significantly undermine the security and integrity of the country’s entire mail collection and delivery process,” he wrote in a letter dated May 27.
The NEA’s support is especially important because roughly one-third of Staples’ revenue comes from the sale of school supplies.
“This is terrific news,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Teachers will play a crucial role in this struggle, and we greatly appreciate their support.”
The NEA letter follows votes by the California, Michigan and New Hampshire chapters of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to support the Staples boycott. The AFT is expected to endorse a ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ resolution at its national convention in mid-July.
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) has also taken a stand in support of the Stop Staples movement.
Delegates to the organization’s 43rd national convention voted unanimously to join the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ campaign and to spread the word to member unions and throughout the labor movement.
The CBTU also passed two other resolutions in support of postal workers: The group voted to embark on a campaign to educate the American people on the advantages of non-profit postal banking services and to become a signatory to the Grand Alliance to save the national public Postal Service.
“The CBTU’s support means a great deal,” Dimondstein said. “CBTU has activists all across the country and in many unions. They have done great work of linking the struggles of workers with the struggles in communities.”
NY, NH Join the Fight
The New York State and New Hampshire AFL-CIO are also urging their members, families, friends and allies to boycott the office-supply company.
“The Staples pilot is part of a larger problem in our economy – a myopic focus on the bottom line, even if it means degraded services and the replacement of family-sustaining careers with low-wage jobs,” said New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento. “New Yorkers must stand-up and send a message to Staples and the Postal Service that our mail is too important to entrust to anyone but USPS employees who are accountable to the public and have taken an oath of office.”
Jim Bertolone, president of the Rochester Area Local APWU and a vice president of the New York State AFL-CIO, said, “The Postmaster General has repeatedly denied that this program is part of an effort to privatize USPS retail operations, but documents management was forced to provide by the NLRB of the secret no-bid deal with Staples state, ‘The pilot will be used to determine if lower costs can be realized with retail partner labor instead of the labor traditionally associated with retail windows at Post Offices.’ This we know is outsourcing and privatization.”
The New Hampshire AFL-CIO has also joined in. “The New Hampshire AFL-CIO fully and enthusiastically supports our sisters and brothers working in real post offices across our state and nation, and we will be boycotting staples until this unfair program is ended,” said New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie.
“I applaud the activists in our locals and state organizations who undoubtedly played a key role in winning these endorsements,” Dimondstein said. “I urge all APWU members to help spread the word about the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ campaign to labor organizations throughout the country – at the national, state and local level – to make sure union members get the message.”
“I’m convinced that working men and women will readily understand the threat to living-wage jobs posed by the Postal Service’s no-bid, sweetheart deal with Staples once they are made aware of the situation,” he said.
NH Labor News reports that Staples executive Shira Goodman mocked postal workers and their “jobs for life” at a “town hall” session for Staples employees. Goodman is a Mitt Romney protege who got the Staples job after working for Romney’s Bain Capital. Goodman may not have a “job for life”, but she and her colleagues seem to be pretty secure in their positions. While the Staples Annual Report doesn’t list Goodman’s salary, it says that her boss, CEO Ronald Sargent, has received compensation valued at about $26 million over just the last three years. During that time period, while the stock market boomed, with the S&P 500 up by 50%, Staples’ stock price has lost almost half its value.
Who needs a job for life when you’ve got a deal like that?
Shira Goodman, North American Commercial President for Staples couldn’t hide her contempt for Postal Workers when she spoke to hundreds of Staples employees in her first ever Town Hall style meeting. Ms Goodman chastised Postal Workers with several disparaging remarks including: “It must be nice to have a job for life” then adding ”those days are over, this country can’t afford to do business as usual”. In her world Staples workers are nothing more than temporary workers always at risk to have their jobs abolished.
It comes as no surprise that Shira Goodman was on the “Jobs and Economy” Steering Committee during Mitt Romney’s transition to Massachusetts Governor in 1992. Judging by her attitude towards workers there is no doubt she buys into Romney’s hateful 47% comment made during his presidential run.
It’s also hardly shocking that Shira Goodman’s job before joining Staples in 1992 was being a manager for Bain and Company (1986-1992). Staples was one of her clients. Bain was the leader in outsourcing workers jobs for management profit. She must feel quite comfortable in outsourcing postal jobs to her transient workforce.